PAUL M. ENGLISH never imagined that a pet peeve would become such a cause célèbre. For more than four years, Mr. English, a veteran technologist and serial entrepreneur, has maintained a blog on which he shares everything from his favorite chocolate cake recipe to the best management advice he's received.
But last summer, fed up with too many aggravating run-ins with awful customer service, Mr. English posted a blog entry that reverberated around the world: a "cheat sheet" that explained how to break through automated interactive voice-response systems at a handful of companies and speak to a human being. He named the companies and published their codes for reaching an operator — codes that they did not share with the public.
The reaction was overwhelming. Visitors to the blog began contributing their own code-breaking secrets and spreading the word. The consumer affairs specialist for The Boston Globe wrote about Mr. English, who is now the chief technical officer of Kayak.com, a travel search engine he helped to found, and gave his online cheat sheet mainstream attention. That led to appearances on MSNBC, NPR and the BBC, an article in People magazine — and more than one million visitors to the blog in January alone.
This is sign, heed it.